My other half and I are nomads currently living in Boulder, CO, til we figure out our next move. Being nomads means we've been sleeping on a mattress on the floor for a few months. Urban camping is fun for awhile, but we needed a change. When he went away on a business trip recently, I decided to surprise him and make us a bed. Plus it had been awhile since I built something and my brain was itchy. I captured the process with my iPhone.
Here were my design protocols for the bed building project.
1. Storage underneath. I drag a lot of books around.
2. Simple to Build - I don't have my power tools with me, so it had to be simple E.g. No sawing or cutting to size.
3. Simple to Dismantle - For fun, I also decided to see how I could get away with out drilling or nailing stuff together.
4. Inexpensive - the budget was $23.
5. Bonus Protocols :: Has to look good, be sturdy, & it has to be possible for one person to carry & transport the materials without a truck or van. (Bike transport possible if you have a bike trailer!)
Here's what I did and how I did it.
Step 1: Step 1 Gather Ideas
First, I looked up what others had done for building a quick bed to get ideas. There's this guy who put a mattress on top of his file boxes. Clever! But I didn't have storage boxes like that and I wanted something a little more interesting. Then I looked up some other platform beds, but most involved sawing and screwing (imagine that.)
Finally, before heading to a retail hardware store like the famous McGuckin's of Boulder, I decided to go check out ReSource, an architectural & building salvage shop in town. I'd check out McGuckin's later if I needed to. I'd been going to these places for years for other building projects but I wasn't sure yet what I'd find there, or how I'd do it. (The places I've been to are Bring in Eugene, OR, Build It Green in New York City, and ReStore in Philadelphia, PA. IF you're lucky, there might be one in your city too.)
Materials I considered included ::
1. Pallets (too splintery and not enough storage)
2. New 2 x 4s or 2 x 6s with plywood or OSB combo (ruled out because of budget, sawing, & screwing)
3. Salvage dresser drawers (could have structural issues),
4. Salvage doors (a good choice for size & sturdiness, but not in the budget, and what would they rest them on?) and
5. Old milk crates (not so easy to find these days, also they're plastic, I like natural materials better.)
6. Scraps of hardwood flooring
7. Salvage cabinetry
Check out Step 2 to see what I picked.
(Note, photo credit for the cabinet picture:: ReSource website.)
Step 2: Step 2 Choose Materials
Guess what won? If you guessed old kitchen cabinets, score one for you, my friend!
They're structurally sound, inexpensive and include storage. High five.They might not match exactly, but I like to mix things up a bit. I also picked out some scrap OSB for the platform top. (They were signs for a political campaign. Thank you, responsible political candidate.)
Here's how to pick the cabinets & material for your own modular storage bed ::
1. Measure:: If you're like me, you don't carry a tape measure with you everywhere you go. But I did have an 8.5" x 11" piece of paper. What you're looking for is similar widths, because you'll be laying the cabinets on their sides. Original height & depth don't matter as much. I picked 15" wide wall cabinets.
2. Price:: The range at ReSource for cabinets was between $5 - $20. This is easy, pick the $5 cabinets with similar widths. Check out the joints to make sure they are solid.
3. Style:: I chose three cabinets that just had one door. Easier for storage. You don't worry about being matchy matchy, if that's not your style. If it is your style, consider painting mismatched cabinets the same color to make the look more uniform.* This will add to your project time, and the messiness factor.
4. Platform Top:: Pick pieces of plywood or OSB large enough to span the cabinets. I found scraps of OSB in close enough to the right size. The OSB spans the cabinets to make a platform, the mattress goes on top of the
5. Hardwood Flooring Pieces:: Pick up a few pieces to lay underneath the cabinets. The pieces act as a floor protector.
*Tip:: If you want to paint your modular bed cabinets, check out "mistake paint" at the hardware store. You can get $50 gallons of paint for about $3-5 American bucks.
Step 3: Step 3 Build Your Modular Bed
Technically, you might call this "arranging". Here's what I did.
1. Dust off the cabinets and wood scraps with a wet rag. They're dusty. Use a mild cleaning agent if you want.
2. Clear space for the bed.
3. Lay down the floor protection if you have hardwood floors. See picture.
4. Arrange the cabinets however you want. I put them longwise (is that a word?) in the corners. See picture.
5. Put your platform material across the cabinets.
6. Throw your mattress on top of that.
7. Put some stuff in the cabinets.
8. Make your bed and lie in it.
9. Congratulate yourself! You built something, saved a bit of the earth by using salvage, and you now have a real bed to sleep on, with storage, that you made for about $23 dollars.
With a little more time and material, you can also give the bed a more finished look by filling in the gaps between cabinets using either wood or attaching fabric to cover the gaps.
Bonus:: Notice that in addition to the cabinets, there's also a large swath of storage space running down the middle of the bed. I put our camping gear in that space.
Easy enough that a baby could do it. But also way cool.
So, my friends, what do you think?